Dead COW?

Cir­cuit of Wales lat­est

Motorcycle News (UK) - - News -

The dream of a new home for the Bri­tish Grand Prix in South Wales ap­pears to be dead in the wa­ter al­most six years af­ter the Cir­cuit of Wales was first pro­posed. The Welsh Gov­ern­ment turned down the project’s third fund­ing pro­posal and with­drew their sup­port for the project last week - a de­vel­op­ment that looks set to bring the am­bi­tious plan to an end.

The lat­est pro­posal asked for 50% of the project’s £425 mil­lion to­tal cost to be un­der­writ­ten by the re­gional gov­ern­ment, which es­sen­tially in­sured the project in case it ran at a loss for the next 35 years. Un­like the pre­vi­ous two re­quests the lat­est was ex­am­ined by an in­de­pen­dent com­pany and it was their re­port that prompted the re­gional gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion.

Throw­ing doubt on claims that the cir­cuit would gen­er­ate 750,000 an­nual vis­i­tors and 6000 jobs for the re­gion, the au­di­tors found that the more re­al­is­tic job fig­ure was in­stead closer to only 100. With that in­for­ma­tion in hand, Ken Skates AM said that he had no choice but to with­draw his depart­ment’s sup­port for it.

How­ever, or­gan­is­ing body Heads of the Val­ley De­vel­op­ment Com­pany, un­der chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Whi­taker, have dis­puted that the project is over, telling MCN that de­spite the Min­is­ter’s with­drawal of sup­port it does not mean the end of the Cir­cuit of Wales.

“The is­sue last Tues­day [27 June] was that they came up with some ad­vice from their Trea­sury peo­ple that the whole bal­ance of their guar­an­tee would be on their bal­ance sheet. We’ve had a meet­ing with them since to try to un­der­stand what hap­pened, be­cause they didn’t tell us prior to their meet­ing on Tues­day about this in­for­ma­tion.

“We are con­fi­dent, from the dis­cus­sions that we’ve had with them last week, that we can sit down and talk with them and iden­tify how we can move things for­ward given the in­for­ma­tion we now have. Our in­vestors are still in place. The gov­ern­ment are look­ing to us to come back to them this week, sit down around the ta­ble with us and ham­mer it out.”

When ques­tioned about the claims made by the min­is­ter that they would have no fur­ther in­volve­ment in the project, Whi­taker replied: “We had a meet­ing with the of­fi­cials on Fri­day. The fact of the mat­ter is, the Welsh Gov­ern­ment have al­ways kept their doors open - and a lot of things were said on Tues­day and state­ments made from both sides. I don’t want to get into a ‘we said, he said’ be­cause Ken Skates has made it very clear that he’s still pre­pared to sit down and talk to us.”

Whi­taker’s take on the sit­u­a­tion seems to con­tra­dict the state­ments made by Skates ear­lier in the week, though, with the eco­nomic sec­re­tary say­ing that the fi­nan­cial risk that it would leave the re­gional gov­ern­ment open to means that his depart­ment could not con­tinue to sup­port it.

A slow start

Orig­i­nally launched in 2011 to be un­der con­struc­tion by 2012, the project has suf­fered de­lay af­ter de­lay with build­ing work never ac­tu­ally started – other than a road to the in­dus­trial es­tate. How­ever, Heads of the Val­leys De­vel­op­ment Com­pany, the or­gan­is­ers be­hind the COW project, were awarded the con­tract to host the Bri­tish Grand Prix in 2014 with a five-year deal (and an op­tion to ex­tend it for a fur­ther five years).

With con­struc­tion re­peat­edly de­layed, they were forced to do a deal with Don­ing­ton and then Sil­ver­stone to host the Bri­tish GP. The HOTV are also sched­uled to host this year’s race in only eight weeks’ time.

‘Au­di­tors found 100 jobs would be cre­ated, not the 6000 claimed’

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